Consumers Corner # 40


By Jim Murphy

The most uplifting pubic performance I’ve seen in years took place June 21 at Carpenters’ Hall, 320 Chestnut Street.

Historian David McCullough, author of “1776,” “John Adams” and many other acclaimed books, two-time Pulitzer Prize winner and narrator of numerous documentaries, brought hope and inspiration – both to those inside Carpenter’s Hall – and those outside under a tent watching the ceremony on a large screen.

McCullough was in Philly to kick off the first annual David McCullough Prize for Excellence in American Public History, which will be awarded next year. A second prize will be awarded each year to a civic teacher in the region.

McCullough, who grew up in the Pittsburgh area, said as a child he used to run his fork over his peas and mashed potatoes, let the gravy flow through and say, “This is the Johnstown flood.” He had no idea what the Johnstown flood was.

But it became the subject of his first book. Paying attention to what a favorite teacher told him – “Don’t tell me, show me” – he looked at the flood and said, “Why did this happen?”

“The fact that people are in responsible position does not mean they will act responsibly,” he says.

The flood, which killed 2,200 people and destroyed more than 1,600 homes, did not need to happen. A prestigious hunting and fishing club, with millionaire members like industrialists Henry Clay Frick and Andrew Carnegie, modified the dam and spillway, in part to keep the fish stock plentiful.

Their irresponsibility was inexcusable. But not uncommon.

Asked to consider writing his second book on either the Chicago fire or the San Francisco earthquake, he wisely chose the Brooklyn Bridge instead. Why? He did not want to become known as “Bad News McCullough.”

Some McCullough comments:

  • Today “we rail against ourselves.”
  • “A sense of history is an antidote to self-importance and self-pity.”
  • “History enlarges our sympathies.”
  • “Architecture shapes us more than we know.”
  • “We’re all immigrants and we must all remember that.”
  • “We should all be taking our children to historical sites.”
  • McCullough, who does all his research looking at handwritten, not online references, says John Adams and Abigail Adams “could not write short letters.”
  • To do research, “You need to meet with people who know what they are talking about. Computers can’t give you what people can.” He stressed that librarians can tell you, “don’t miss this and this.” Computers can’t.

And to those who are scared by the current direction of our government, he said: “This too shall pass.”


Disappointing Declaration

Page D3  of the July 4th edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer carried an ad by MassMutual about the Declaration of Independence.

And this ad was so wrong in so many ways.

It shortened the real Declaration, picked and chose what it wanted to include, cut out an entire section about the “merciless Indian Savages” … and miscounted the number of words it did cite.

The ad  copy says:  “1,458 words and not one of them is “me, “I,” or “my.” 

“Just like our company, America was founded by people who believed in being there for each other. Happy Interdependence Day.”

Besides deleting parts it felt uncomfortable with, the ad has the word count wrong: the entire document is 1,338 words long. And it shows only 975 words.

So while the ad may be well-intended, the math is way off and the strategy is, too.

If you are going to tie yourself to a cherished national  document, go all in and use the entire thing.

Don’t select what part you want to match your clever ad message.

MassMutual: you should be ashamed of yourself. That’s my declaration.




The number of World Cup championships in a row won by European countries. This is true even though the final hasn’t yet occurred. Why? All the teams left are European: England, France, Belgium and Croatia. The final will be held in Moscow Sunday, July 15.

Source: Sports Illustrated



By signing with the Los Angeles Lakers, LeBron James became the sixth of top-eight scorers in NBA history to play for this once-storied team. The others: Kareem Abdul-jabbar, Karl Malone, Kobe Bryant, Wilt Chamberlin and Shaquille O’Neal. Non-Lakers among the top eight: Michael Jordan and Dirk Nowitski.

Source: New York Times


The number of hours per week immigrant children in low-income neighborhoods in Denmark will be separated from their families and instructed in “Danish Values.” These hours do not include nap time.

Children as young as one year of age living in 25 heavily Muslim neighborhoods described as a “ghetto” by Denmark’s government fall under the new laws. Noncompliance could result in the loss of welfare payments to families.

Source: and the New York Times

Philly Fun Fact: Society Hill – Part 2

 While Society Hill is now one of the city’s most attractive and prosperous neighborhoods, it wasn’t always that way.

Best-known in the past for election-day riots under the direction of ward boss William “Bull” McMullen, the area was called the “Bloody Fifth” Ward in the early 20th century. In 1917, a police officer was even killed during a heated primary race.

Efforts in the 1950s and 1960s to reverse the area’s poverty and violence and refurbish the vast stock of surviving 18th and 19th century buildings made Society Hill’s renewal a model throughout the country.

One reason for its success: rather than demolishing whole neighborhoods the way some cities did, Society’s Hill renovation cured “slums with penicillin, not surgery.”

Source: Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia


Photo Credits

“Carpenter’s Hall” flickr photo by armstrks shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-ND) license


Jim Murphy is a direct marketing copywriter who has run his own consulting business since 2004. For nine years, he wrote and edited “Choices,” an award-winning credit union magazine with a circulation of 80,000. Now a certified member and vice president of the Association of Philadelphia Tour Guides, Jim gives tours and has written more than 50 historical articles for both the Queen Village Neighbors Association magazine and the Society Hill Reporter.

Any comments made are Jim’s opinion, and not necessarily those of the Old Pine Community Center.




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